Trust me there's talent in county
IT'S been a mixed week for the Kerry faithful.
Whilst our current seniors turned in another impressive display, this time on the road, to beat Kildare and put them right in the mix for a semi-final spot, our potential future seniors came up against a stronger and, in my opinion, more skilful Cork Under 21 side and our wait for a title at this grade continues.
When Kerry fail to progress in these competitions, whether it is at minor or Under 21 level, the same argument ensues. Is winning titles imperative or is it more important that we are bringing through four or five players each year that have the ability to make the breakthrough at the top?
First of all, we are Kerry. Our record at every level speaks for itself and minor managers in the past such as Charlie Nelligan (who handed me my first Kerry jersey), John Kennedy, Pat O'Driscoll, Sean Geaney and Mickey Ned O'Sullivan all took the job with the ambition of leading Kerry to silverware.
However, for me, the bigger picture is more vital than winning cups. Developing the player for the next step of his career is what really matters and that is what we have done consistently for years. The biggest disappointment for me watching the Under 21s defeat to Cork was that so few of our lads put their hands up as a potential senior in the next few years and that's a worry.
Certain experts have also referred to the Kerry well of talent at underage drying up. I work with the current Under 15 Kerry South Development and see first hand the talent that is in Kerry and, believe me, the well is brimming to the top.
It's a tough one to take for the Under 21 management as it breaks down into two years work for two games. The luck of the draw paired us with Cork for the past few seasons and on both occasions we came up against a better side.
As I took my place on the terrace in Austin Stack Park I was taken back straight away by the difference in stature in both teams. Cork just seemed to have big men all over the pitch and I thought that this would be a telling factor.
However, even though there were instances where Kerry players lost out on breaking ball and were turned over in possession due to brute force, I don't think this was the major reason Kerry lost out.
I haven't seen any statistics from the game, but I would hazard a guess and say Kerry had as much of the ball as their opponents, especially in the first half. What let them down was the distribution.
From early on, the game plan seemed to be to get the ball into our full-forward line as quickly as possible. It looked rushed and lead to high, aimless ball being kicked in, which the Cork backs mopped up with ease more often than not.
A little more patience and, it has to be said, a little bit more work from our half-forward line would have opened up the opportunity to go through another line or phase of play and then hit the likes of the impressive Thomas Hickey who had the beating of his marker all evening.
Kieran Murphy and Shaun Keane competed well around the middle of the field although the Legion man will look back at a series of mistimed jumps as an area where he can improve. These are two young men who have the size and ability to go further in the game but it's just a pity they won't get more games at this level this year. It would have brought them on.
Our backs coped as well as they could have against some very skilful Cork forwards. I have been a fan of Nathan Breen from Beaufort ever since I first marked him. It was a few years ago in a Mid Kerry league game and I was picked at full-forward.
Someone mentioned to me that the full-back was only a 17-year old. Happy days, I thought! The first ball I got I went to take him on and he drove me back about 10 yards! 17? Not a chance! Breen is a guy to look out for.
It was only a few weeks back when I wrote in this piece that the Kerry seniors will be doing very well to avoid relegation. Now, looking at the league table and taking into account the remaining fixtures, a place in the last four is very much up for grabs.
In fact it could come down to a winner takes it all battle against our neighbours Cork in the final game. Kerry find themselves in this position because of a very solid six-point win over Kildare. It looked nervy early on as Kildare popped some good scores and moved three points clear.
Add to this some bad misses for goals by Stephen O'Brien and James O'Donoghue and it wasn't the start Kerry would have hoped for. Marc Ó Sé was finding the going tough on the lively Paddy Brophy who gave him a torrid first half. Marc got to grips with him in the second half though and that was key to stifling the Lilywhites attack.
When your team possesses quality forwards, you always have a chance. James O'Donoghue yet again proved unstoppable, not only notching 1-5 for himself, but setting up the crucial Paul Geaney goal that helped send Kerry in at the break up by four.
Eamonn Fitzmaurice can also be pleased with the performances of Paul Murphy again who, for me, has been the find of this campaign so far. David Moran's graph continues to climb upwards and he is growing into a real leader on this team.
Stephen O'Brien and Daithí Casey, who were both quiet against Tyrone, hit five points between the two of them and improve with every game.